I’m a bartender at a whiskey bar, an Irish pub, Ybor City’s finest.
Accordingly, there’s rarely a shift that goes by without me concocting an old-fashioned for a wanting customer. We even have a variety of specialty old-fashioneds on the cocktail menu for our guests to enjoy.
As with any bar owner, the proprietor of our establishment strives for consistency. With the urge to franchise always in the back of their mind, they want every old-fashioned, that every bartender makes, to come out the same delicious way.
Of course, that’s borderline ridiculous, if not impossible. Some old-fashioneds will be stronger than others, some will be sweeter than others and some will be better. As much as we strive to make every old fashioned the same way, the flavor of every old-fashioned will vary, especially with every bartender trying to convince you that theirs is the best.
Of course, if you look up the recipe for the classic old-fashioned online, the first ten recipes you find will invariably show ten different ways to make the drink. As such, we bartenders find what works and stick with it.
Similarly, there are many, different ways to officiate a basketball game. Even though the paid zebras are supposed to go by the letter of the law, like the classic old-fashioned, there is plenty of room for interpretation.
I’ve heard some griping lately about the way these NBA playoffs have been officiated. Middle fingers aimed at taunting crowds, those of Kyrie Irving and Draymond Green, both fined $25,000 for their efforts, some tasty fouls in the Memphis-Golden State series, players sent to locker rooms and eventually MRI clinics, as the play gets more physical the deeper that they get into the playoffs, officiating inevitably comes under more scrutiny.
It happens every year. Reffin’ ain’t easy.
I haven’t watched every waking minute of playoff basketball this year. I have a job that prevents me from doing so (I’m makin’ old-fashioneds over here!) but I haven’t noticed all that many blasphemously, game-skewing calls. It’s the NBA and these things tend to even themselves out. NBA refs are, after all, the masters of the make-up call.
There was one occasion at the end of one game where a coach was out of challenges. A ball went out of bounds and the refs couldn’t agree which team was the last to touch it. So, they called for a jump ball. It was the NBA’s egalitarian way of making amends, their equivalent of a tie goes to the runner. I wondered why the refs just couldn’t just go to the replay but that decision, or lack thereof, did not determine the outcome of the game. The players played on.
There are structures in place to prevent blown calls from swaying the outcomes of games. The NBA does its best to ensure its referees remain as anonymous as possible. Before we join in the harmonious “These Refs Suck!” that tend to bellow through the arena, we should do our best to remember these referees are human. They make mistakes just like you and I. Just as old-fashioneds are made differently by different bartenders, different refs call fouls differently. Some allow for more physical play, others jump at the opportunity to call a ticky-tack.
With the increasing amount of today’s players attempting to draw charges as a form of defense, that point of impact, at extremely high speeds with extremely physical players, is becoming more difficult to judge correctly. Even slowed down, in a high contact game, it’s difficult to determine the source, extent, or intent of the foul after multiple replay viewings.
That said, these games or series are not being determined by bad calls. I think people just want a reason to complain and the men (and women) in stripes seem like a fair target. It’s our never-ending quest to leave a one-star review when we’re dissatisfied, regardless of the implications.
Before you cry foul as to the way NBA games are officiated, I should remind you that former NBA referee Joey Crawford once ejected Hall of Famer Tim Duncan from a game while he was sitting on the bench. Furthermore, Major League Baseball just had an umpire named Dan Bellino toss Diamondback’s pitcher Madison Bumgarner in the first inning after giving him a hand massage.
The NBA is so concerned about getting calls right that it even has a comments section on its home page about the way the league is officiated in its last two minutes. I can’t even imagine the horde of unintelligible e-mails they get complaining about games but I’m sure they give the Commissioner’s office a healthy chuckle.
The league is in good hands with great young players. It continues to expand and grow. Complaining about the refs and thinking we can do a better job than them, goes hand in hand with being a sports fan, so I suppose asking us to put aside our biases when judging those paid to be unbiased is fruitless. It’s in our nature to complain when we don’t get our way, even if our way is on a television screen in a basketball contest miles away.
Until we get robots out there, there is no way to remove the human element from the game. That’s what makes it a game. Call me old-fashioned.